Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's fun to play at the YMCA

So here we are again. I am once more in a death match with one of my archenemies, January. January fights with numbingly cold weather, snow, sleet, high winds, and the Baltimore Ravens. Most days I fight back with gloves and $2.20 for a medium coffee at the nearby cafe. Last year, January won. Kyle and I would stay huddled up in our apartment, watching the frost build on the windows as we counted down the days of winter using a piece of chalk and a large stone slab we keep in the kitchen. We would slowly go crazy, and by March it was hard to tell who was babbling more.

Sure, we had the ability to go outside, but who wants to do all the work? In addition to getting yourself all bundled up, you have to make sure your child is even warmer than you are by putting extra sweatshirts on him, sticking him in a full-body warm suit, wrapping him up in a giant sleeping bag called a "Bundle Me," and finding his hat, socks and gloves, one of which is always missing. The child never loves this process, and throughout is making a face like this one:

And there's plenty of noise that comes along with this face. Once all this is completed, and you're out of breath because you've spent the last twenty minutes fighting with a miniature person and looking for that missing hat, you suddenly smell something, causing you to undo everything you just accomplished. A half hour later, you walk outside, into the frigid cold with no place to go but the local coffee shop, shivering and wondering why you even bothered when you notice that your child's tears have turned into little icicles that are stabbing his cheeks. The next day you don't bother with it all and January wins.

That was last year, the year I became acquainted with the cruel winter hurtle of stay-at-home parenting. It caught me a little by surprise, as I had grown accustomed to eating up lots of time by going on walks during the late summer and fall months. Once I lost the walk, I had to find a way to get through the day and fill the eleven hours I had with him, two of which, thank God, were taken up by nap time. It was no easy task, but I trudged through it with noisy toys, book reading, and wrestling. Eventually we ran out of things to do, but fortunately spring came, and I was only three-quarters crazy by then. This year, I have a special tool up my sleeve: the YMCA.

As you may recall, we became members of the Y in October. We thought Kyle would enjoy his childhood more by learning how to swim...

This part of the YMCA experience did not go so well... that is, until the second-to-last week, when Kyle suddenly started liking the water, even laughing at some points during the swim. By then it was too late to sign up for the next swim class. When we checked, the only class available was a class for older kids, in which Kyle would have learned how to fight sharks and alligators. We didn't think he was ready for that. So now the Y is being used solely as a refuge from January's angry wrath.

The Y has an "open gym" period for kids on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, during which the gym is filled with toys, slides, tunnels, and mats for kids to use. It's a mini slice of heaven for those of us who stay at home, even if that slice is filled with dozens and dozens of kids running wild and throwing things. For a little more than an hour, I weave around all the little people, tripping over a few as I follow my child, who just likes to run everywhere. It can be loud and a bit overwhelming, but it's also a break from reading "Curious George Takes a Train" again and again. It's an exchange I'm willing to make.

Plus, the Y gives us opportunities to create new goals and developmental milestones for our children. For example, on Monday Kyle crawled through one of the tunnels for the first time. Now, four months ago I would not have thought much about tunnels or would have thought it was a big deal should Kyle go through one. But after weeks of seeing him run around them and then look at them with curiosity without going in, I became anxious for the moment when he'd try one. When it happened, I took pictures and sent them to Jennifer at work. She responded with an email expressing how happy she was. We'll throw a party and present him with a trophy next week. We are proud of our little explorer. Obviously this skill will come in handy many years from now, when he has to tunnel through the piles of money he has made by being so smart.

Kyle is also learning some life lessons at the YMCA. Even as his ego was stoked by tunnel triumph, he was humbled by his lack of people skills needed to hold on to whatever he was playing with. Several times he'd be pushing a small gym cushion around, when a young girl, perhaps three years old, would come along, briefly act like she wanted to share it with him, and then would grab it away and run off. This kind of thing happens most times we visit the Y. Whenever it does, Kyle acts stunned and sometimes cries a little. As much as I hate seeing this sort of thing happen to my child, the fact is the toy wasn't his own. I'd like to interfere, but that really wouldn't be right, since Kyle needs these moments to better interact with other kids. So, I just tell him that he just learned a little lesson about life: you give a woman a little room, and she'll take everything you've got.

Overall, the gym has been a great experience, and a much-needed relief from cabin fever. It gives us a chance to leave the apartment without freezing. It also gives Kyle an opportunity to have fun and meet other kids. Best of all, there's no water to fear. The only thing Kyle has to worry about are the usual YMCA dangers: flying basketballs and the Village People.

Of course, I don't mean to sound like a spokesperson for the YMCA. I am sure any gym that offered the same kind of play time would be great; the Y just happens to be close to our home. Plus, stay-at-home parents tend to get a little excited about anything that makes the job easier or keeps our sanity in tact. I am especially grateful for our neighborhood's abundance of coffee shops, the existence of easy-to-use strollers,, Netflix, and, most importantly, my good friends Matt and Mickey, who come by almost every week to grab lunch or a beer. Without them, or the Y, I wouldn't stand a chance against the brutality of January. Now, with these forces at hand, I can fight back and safely say that January's days are numbered.


1 comment:

erica said...

Wow, I'm a little jealous-- it's so important to have a good place you can go when outside isn't an option. We often end up in the mall play area, which isn't nearly as cool as the Y looks like it is.

It's funny, I remember the first time Kent went through a tunnel, and I was equally proud of him because he had been so cautious about it for so long. I was like, "Dude, he has conquered his fear! He's growing up!!" A trophy sounds like an awesome idea. =)